SUMMARY: On our path of discovering what it takes to become a spiritual champion we cannot ignore the call to sacrifice. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller shares the history and necessary components of living in sacrifice on our road to becoming spiritual champions.
RESOLUTE STUDY GUIDE: SACRIFICE
On our path of discovering what it takes to become a spiritual champion, we cannot ignore the call to sacrifice. Sacrifice is a key component.
Throughout the Bible, sacrifice was an important aspect of the relationship between God and humanity. And within the Old Testament, we discover several different types of sacrifices which were accomplished through the killing of an animal. These sacrifices served the purpose of accomplishing several things including gratitude for God’s goodness, acknowledgment of sin, and the establishment of a covenant. While the sheer volume of OT sacrifices may all be hard for us to keep straight, we don’t have to fret about this because in Jesus Christ the New Covenant is made complete in his sacrifice – one whose sacrifice is representative of all these purposes. In Jesus Christ, we discover the sacrificial system was simply a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice in His life.
But this does not absolve our duty to sacrifice. Sacrifice is the spiritual champions way of life. It is how we choose to live. It is a choice we make.
For example, toward the end of King David’s life, we see he has made a tragic choice. He has taken a census which was not commanded by the Lord, which was an act of selfishness on his part. In chapter 24 of 2nd Samuel, we discover that David is guilt struck by this act and is punished by God with a plague in the land wherein 70,000 inhabitants across Israel died in three days. Out of this tragedy, David offers a sacrifice of penance to the Lord, and here David’s sacrificial act. 2 Samuel 24: 18 reads,
“18 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his officials coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. 21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” “To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.” 22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.” 24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.”
I love this story because in David we learn that all that sacrifice requires something from us personally. Sacrifice is often captured in activities demonstrated through the exchange of money, time, or energy that are focused toward God but always initiated out of genuine motive. Sacrifice while demonstrated through these actions is always foreshadowing something of greater consequence. It exchanges something of value for something we desire more. And David here will not let Araunah sacrifice on his behalf. Why? Because David knows his sin and sacrifice should cost him personally and this cost is of little consequence to him but needs to make. Araunah’s land is a small price to pay for his sin cost his people so much. I hate the choice that David made to conduct a census, but I appreciate the heart of David here, it demonstrates penance toward God and others. He could have taken advantage of Araunah’s generosity, but he chose not to, and why? Because sacrifice demands a personal cost.
So as we follow the history from the OT to the NT we see the sacrificial system evolve, or how it would manifest itself in the great story of God. After the exile in 586 BC, Jews were forced to adjust from religious sacrifices focused on the temple to ones that centered life solely upon the Torah in the synagogue. And after the temple’s rebuilding in 353 BC, tensions existed between the centralized Temple practices in Jerusalem and other separatist Jewish groups. The temple practices, controlled by the upper-class group known as the Sadducees, ended with the Second Temple’s destruction in 66 AD, as the surviving sects of Jewish groups and Christianity, were again forced to reinterpret sacrifice without a temple. So, in history, we discover that sacrifice has evolved in how it was practiced.
Today Christ followers look at sacrifice as a way of life as taught by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2.
“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We are the sacrifice. The sacrifice is no longer external customs and practices but it is internal desires and motivations. Following Jesus model, it is ourselves that we sacrifice. We become a living sacrifice which is continually being offered. This infers that from the time we wake till the time we lay our head on the pillow, we make sacrifices on the behalf of God’s goodness, our sin, as a covenant between us and God.
So let’s get practical. What does this mean? Well, this means we must pay the price. Mark 8:34-38 is clear about what this should look like.
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’”
Here are three practical observations. Notice the following phrases.
1) Deny himself. This means we deny ourselves of our identity. Often people think of this as denying ourselves of the things we want. And this is challenging especially in an age when we can get everything and anything we want now. For American men, this is very challenging because we are always indulging ourselves, and denial is not frequently practiced. We binge watch our favorite shows, we impulse buy the next big technology, we build debt to have something we need now, and all this to satisfy our personal and immediate needs. But remember the type of denial Jesus is inferring is not the denial of things, but the, even more, the denial of self. It is the denial of who we are! Our very identity. And gentlemen this denial is counter-cultural, but it must be learned by the spiritual champion.
2) Take up his cross. The image here is of an actual cross for these people, not a figurative one. And while the cross to us may only be an image in history, this image was a picture of martyrdom. It was an image of full commitment. An either/or type of commitment. Either you were in or you were out. There was no partial commitment. And note this was not a small irritation or even a major burden, this was a willingness to suffer for Jesus at every turn. This is such a radical concept that I think most contemporary men struggle to find a real example of how this looks today. I even struggle to think of one example in our time that would represent a commitment of this type. Jesus’s death is the only one that satisfies.
3) Follow after me. This means we come after God’s truth and elevate his truth radically above our own. God’s truth in his word, purposes, motivations, and behaviors must be adhered to discover the true meaning of this. We can no longer be mastered by our own ideas, purposes, motivations, and behaviors we must submit to God’s. We now kneel to him as Lord and we follow him alone. Spiritual champions follow their leader and submit to his ways regardless.
Perhaps the easiest way to make this even more practical is to evaluate yourself and ask yourself the questions.
1) Are you willing to deny yourself of your personal identity?
2) Are you willing to fully commit to Jesus Christ even to death?
3) Are you willing to follow Christ’s truth over your own truth?
If you hesitate in your answers of one or all of these, perhaps the next best question is, “What sacrificial activity would increase your commitment in these areas?” This is the great application question. And perhaps that is where we should leave our time today.